The 2016 season marks the 90th year of operation for the Triangle X Ranch. Five generations of Turners have called the ranch home.
John S. and Maytie Turner lived operated the Lost Creek Ranch outside of Morgan Utah, and occasionally during the early 1900’s they would take a fun vacation to Yellowstone National Park and a special place they loved, a relatively unknown valley called “Jackson Hole.” They would stay with some homesteading friends, the Meyers, who had a small ranch to the east side of the valley which a spectacular view of the Tetons and overlooked the Snake River.
During these early visits, the Turners’ love for Jackson Hole became stronger. One summer day John S. Turner once again walked to the river to fish from the Meyer homestead. As he came down a small draw carpeted with aspen trees and pines, he followed a small creek out into an open area the land sloped gently towards the river and the spectacular Teton Range. Nestled here was a small homestead owned by Bill Jump. Turner decided at that moment, at that spot, he wanted to move his family to Jackson Hole and build their home in this spot.
On July 6, 1926, he bought the property where now sits the Triangle X Ranch by paying twice what the owner had asked. Treating a man fairly was an unwritten code of the mountain west. That summer Turner came to the valley with his two sons, John C. andBert to begin building their new home. While the basement was being built, trees were felled and logs were pulled to the site. Upon completion of the basement the Turner men moved to the site to live in the underground room. That fall, the Triangle X Turners hosted their first guests, who were big game hunters. The hunters also stayed in the basement that first fall of service. In early winter, work continued and the large two story log home took shape.
During these early decades, there were no plowed roads in this area of the valley, so winters were long and isolated at the ranch. A trip to town usually consumed several days, requiring four days of round-trip travel in a canvas covered sleigh pulled by teams of horses and heated inside with a small wood stove. Since the small town of Jackson was a long trip on dirt roads the ranch was quite self-sufficient. Vegetables came from a large garden. Milk cows supplied milk, cream, and butter. In fact, during these early days, the Turners had a considerable surplus of milk which they sold to neighbors up and down this side of the Valley. The milk was put into metal cans which were taken to customers by mailman who passed the ranch each day. In the winter, the mail was delivered on sleighs with strong horse teams or dogs.
Because there was no electricity, wood supplied heat and kerosene lamps brought light to interiors. Refrigeration was provided by large chunks of ice that had been cut form nearby beaver ponds in the winter and stored in piles of sawdust to keep through the summer. A fresh meat supply was provided by the Turners’ cattle herd, chickens, and big game harvested in the fall. Surprisingly, most of these methods of supply continued through the 1940’s.
In the late 1920’s the ranch property was sold by the Turners to the Snake River Land Company. This company was represented to be a group of wealthy easterners who wanted to invest in the cattle and hunting business. Later it became known that this entity was representing the Rockefeller family who wanted to secretly buy up much of the valley of Jackson Hole for preservation purposes. This revelation began more than two decades of bitter controversy, stretching the valley to Washington D.C.
As his parents and siblings moved off the ranch and started other ranches around the valley, John C. Turner continued to operate the Triangle X as a working dude ranch. In 1931 he had the opportunity to guide a young lady on an elk hunt who had moved to Jackson Hole earlier with her father, a retired mining engineer, Harold T Mapes. John C. Turner and Louise Mapes were married in 1935. John and Louise had three sons: Harold, John, and Donald.
Early guests came for long periods of time extending often for a month or more. Riding, fishing, square dancing, hiking and relaxing were as popular then as now. Most guests enjoyed helping with the ranch work such as roundups, branding cattle and cutting and putting up the hay for winter feed. Falls were as busy as summer and the Triangle X became well known for its excellent elk, moose, and deer hunting. This was all done from the ranch complex during these early days. Today, the ranch’s big game operation is conducted from wilderness hunting camps located northeast of the valley.
In 1950, Congress included much of the valley floor into an expanded Grand Teton National Park, including the acreage of the Triangle X Ranch. Today, the Triangle X continues operation as a working dude ranch and as an authorized concession of the National Park Service – the last dude ranch concession within the nation’s entire National Park’s system.
Harold is the oldest of the three third generation Turner boys. John is the middle brother and Donald the youngest. Triangle X Ranch currently operates as a partnership between the three third generation brothers.
Harold married Berniece and they have three sons; Matt, John and Robert. John married Mary Kay and they have two sons and a daughter; John (Tote), Kathy, and Mark. Donald married Anne Kelsey of Salt Lake City and they have a son and a daughter; Lucas and Elizabeth.
All fourth generation Turners grew up on the ranch and at one point worked in various capacities at Triangle X. Two of the fourth generation clan, Lucas and Robert, continue working at Triangle X, helping their fathers with the family way of life.